A series of scientific studies have shown that getting timely treatment to those with HIV can substantially cut the number of people who become newly infected with the virus.
Sidibe said this was starting to show in new case numbers.
There were 2.7 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2010, 15 percent fewer than in 2001, and 21 percent below the number of new infections at the peak of the epidemic in 1997.
“The big point for us is the number of new infections -that’s where you win against the epidemic,” Sidibe said.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the growing number of averted AIDS deaths was important progress, but said the number of people on treatment needed to increase dramatically to reap the benefits of science showing treatment saves lives and prevents new infections.
“Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around,” said MSF’s Tido von Schoen-Angerer.
“Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the AIDS epidemic. But this means nothing if there is no money to make it happen.”
Despite progress on HIV treatment and prevention, sub-Saharan Africa is still by far the worst hit, accounting for 68 percent of all those living with HIV in 2010 despite its population accounting for only 12 percent of the global total.
Around 70 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, and almost half of all AIDS-related deaths, were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sidibe said with many international donor countries struggling with slow economic growth and high debt, the global AIDS fight had to become even more focused on high impact interventions to deliver progress in the places worst hit.
“We need to maintain our investment, but ... in a smarter way. “Then we’ll see a serious decline in the epidemic,” he said.
By Kate Kelland